“Goodbye, dear loved one”

I remember that part clearly. The morning air was fresh and cool. The new day was still in darkness when we arose 
on what would forever be known in the family as, “the day”. 

I don’t recall who retrieved the horses from our farm field and brought them in,
and harnessed them to the wagon that would carry us into Olive Hill. Most of the family said their final 
farewells in the dim oil lamp light of our small country home. The youngest children were barely awake, and we 
asked them to give our loved one a hug and a wish for a safe trip. Their embrace was brief and each child 
quickly returned to the warm comfort of the large old bed they shared. Ma and auntie hugged our loved one for 
several long minutes. Their tears glistened like jewels in the amber light of our warm familiar kitchen. 
The family had talked at the table for hours, but the decision was inevitable. We could no longer care 
for our loved one in our home.

The trip to the train depot took quite a long time, but few words were spoken along the way. Our loved one dozed 
quietly in the bed of uncle’s wagon, cushioned by old feed bags and a thin blanket. The miles on that rough, 
dark country road passed slowly, and these many years later, I can still smell the sweat of the horses and the 
chill of the morning air as the sun rose above Armstrong Hill.

We arrived at Olive Hill depot about an hour before the train from Ashland arrived. The train that would carry 
my uncle and our loved one to Lexington.

All that I know of the trip to Lexington was what I heard from my uncle on his return the following day. Although, as the 
later years passed by, he did repeat the story to me, in all its sad detail. 

The train passed through Lawton, and Soldier and Morehead, on to Mount Sterling and Winchester. 
It slowed as it entered Lexington and wound its way into the city to the depot. There was no one from the 
hospital to meet them, but the ticket agent helped my uncle locate a liveryman who agreed to carry them to the hospital in his wagon. 
In less than an hour, they arrived at the gates. The hospital was just out of town, about four miles north of 
the train depot. It would have looked like a prosperous farm, except for the large, three story brick building 
that sat a hundred yards from the entrance. On the right side of the building were wide limestone steps that 
led up to the double doors that were the entry into the hospital’s public area. Two attendants dressed in white 
soon arrived to escort our loved one to the long open ward that would now be home. 

As I grew up, I can remember the many times by uncle told me of that moment, standing there in the lobby of 
Eastern State Hospital. In was clear that our loved one was more than a little confused by the events of the day. “What’s happening?” 

Our loved one’s life would never be the same. His embace was long and heartfelt, and my uncle stepped back 
with great reluctance and sadness. He knew this would be the last time he would see our loved one. 
The trip from home was long and difficult. And what would be the point. The cruel illness was taking away the 
ability of our loved one to recall events of only a short time ago, or even recognize close family members. 
This was “for the best”.

One last glance, one last touching of fingertips, silent lips speaking “I love you”, and then the turn away.

The world stands out on either side
 No wider than the heart is wide;
 Above the world is stretched the sky, —
No higher than the soul is high.
 The heart can push the sea and land
 Farther away on either hand;
The soul can split the sky in two,
 And let the face of God shine through.
 But East and West will pinch the heart
 That can not keep them pushed apart;
 And he whose soul is flat — the sky”
 Will cave in on him by and by. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay
"Renascence" (1912)

Sbmitted by John W. Grace

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